Dairy Knowledge Products

Adaptation opportunities for smallholder dairy farmers facing resource scarcity: Integrated livestock, water and land management

This study in the Agriculture, Ecosystems and Environment journal quantifies the water and land footprints of current livestock production systems in three agro-ecological zones in Kenya that contrast strongly in terms of land availability and rainfall (from humid to semi-arid).

Dairy intensification is a widely used means of achieving food security, improving farmer incomes and enhancing overall economic growth. However, intensification is dependent upon the availability and suitability of natural resources to sustain growth in production. Intensification pathways focusing on improving livestock breeds, feed provisioning and milk output per cow and distinguished by contrasting management practices perform differentially across the three agro-ecological zones. Total water and land footprints increase for all scenarios relative to the baseline scenario. mprovement in breed to pure bred cattle across all production systems has the largest total water footprint across all the production systems.

Across all the scenarios, the largest reduction in water footprint of milk production (75%) occurs with improvement in breed and feeding practices from two scenarios in the lowlands. Across the three agroecological zones, improving breeds, feed provisioning and milk production per cow may achieve production intensification but concurrently exacerbates resource limitation. Consequently, the heterogeneity inherent in resource availability across dairy production zones should be considered when developing strategies for increasing dairy production.

Further, it is advisable to conduct cross-sectional analyses, including socio-economic analyses, and use detailed local knowledge and available adaptation options to generate pluralistic and locally adaptive approaches to intensification and not use a “one-size-fits-all” approach. Such analyses would do well to also factor in the cost of intensification to natural biodiversity and essential ecosystem services in water stressed but biodiversity rich environments.

The study can be found here, and the PDF document here.